Canine Dental Caries, a Guide to Identification, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Canine oral hygiene is one of the most important aspects of pet care that is most often forgotten. As with humans, oral and dental hygiene, when left untreated, can lead to progressive and debilitating health conditions. Statistically, more than 80% of all canines have some type of oral disorder or pathology. Although dental caries are not the most prevalent, understanding the nature, signs and treatment of dental caries will significantly improve the quality of life for your dog and reduce the risks of future canine related medical and dental expenses.

Canine dental caries are very rare in dogs. If left untreated, caries will lead to significant tooth decay resulting from a deterioration and decalcification of the tooth enamel. Most prominent in a moist, warm environment, bacteria causes oral flora to fall out of balance leading to gumline recesses. Once this occurs, bacteria begins to invade the space between the gums and the tooth. The bacteria may eventually reach the fibers which hold the tooth in place and impact your canine’s ability to retain teeth.

In addition to the bacterial implications on the tooth and gumline, canine dental caries may also impact a dog’s general health by allowing bacterial toxins to enter the bloodstream resulting in permanent organ damage especially in those organs which are required to filter toxins, ie. liver and kidneys.

Signs of dental carie progression include red and swollen gums, difficulty chewing and, in advanced cases, bad breath resulting from periodontitis. In rare cases, your dog may even begin to uncontrollably vomit and drool.

Prevention and treatment of canine dental caries is very simple and very successful when the condition is treated early. In most cases, dog owners report brushing the canine’s teeth daily in an effort to prevent oral hygiene related diseases. However, in studies, daily brushing does not prove effective in the prevention of caries. Instead, prevention requires providing a meat based, well balanced dietary option for your canine. Additionally, the use of chew toys or rawhide prove effective as they allow your dog to exercise the teeth. The success of exercise are found in the pressure action which holds the teeth in place and strengthens gum tissue. Tooth brushing can be supplemented with these options but can be limited to every other day.

Beyond prevention, treatment proves effective. In most cases, canines respond quickly and recover fully however treatment may require surgical intervention to repair and provide a deep oral cleaning. By treating promptly, the infection is eliminated and your canine will experience less pain.

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